Chhindwara shuts down protesting schoolchildren’s deaths (Lead)

August 3rd, 2008 - 12:36 am ICT by IANS  

Bhopal, Aug 2 (IANS) A near complete shutdown was observed in Madhya Pradesh’s Chhindwara town Saturday to protest the mysterious deaths of two children in a hostel at spiritual leader Asaram Bapu’s ashram even as police claimed to have got vital clues related to the deaths. “The post mortem reports have revealed that the deaths were caused because of asphyxiation. Interrogation of more than 200 people have lead us to certain vital clues,” Jabalpur range Inspector General of Police M.R. Krishna told reporters in Chhindwara.

“However, we will be able to say anything with certainty only after the scientific examination of the evident obtained from the hostel,” he said.

Krishna said a nine-member police team was investigating the deaths and expressed hope that the case would ne solved “in a day or two”.

A five-year-old student, Vedant Kumar, was found unconscious in the bathroom of the gurukul (traditional school) run by Asaram Bapu in Parasia Road neighbourhood in Chhindwara Thursday.

On Tuesday evening, another five-year-old, Ramkrishna Mohan Yadav, was found dead in similar conditions in the gurukul.

“The hostel management says that the boys died because of a fall in the toilet but the people suspect foul play. We are, however, investigating the matter. Security all over the town, mainly around the ashram and the hostel run by it, has been beefed up to avoid any untoward incident,” Chhindwara Superintendant R.K. Shivhare said.

“Only the parents and the guardians interested to see their children or who want to take them back are being allowed entry inside the premises,” he said.

The ashram was attacked by some people Friday and police had to use force to disperse them.

Meanwhile, a complete shutdown was observed in the town Saturday.

“There is anger among people over the deaths. Most people have kept their establishments closed following a call given by the Gondwana Republican Party and the Samajwadi party,” a police officer said.

Many deaths have been reported from school’s run by the sipiritual leader. In Ahmedabad, two students - Deepesh Vaghela, 10, and his cousin Abhishek Vaghela, 11 - went missing July 4 from a gurukul. Their bodies were found from the nearby Sabarmati riverbed July 6. Allegations of shoddy police probe led to widespread protests and clashes in the city.

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